The events of Jesus’ passion are the most significant moments in not just the history of our faith, but all of human history. We position these events, traditionally, in a week-long celebration known as “Holy Week” or “Passion Week.” No matter how the week is named, the purpose is the same and that is to celebrate and commemorate the moments that lead up to Jesus’ arrest, death, and resurrection.
When we come to Holy Week, however, we mostly focus on just a few moments within that week, especially towards its end. We focus on Jesus procession into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. We dine with Jesus and the disciples in the Upper Room and pray with them at the Garden of Gethsemane on Maundy Thursday. We mourn at the foot of the cross on Good Friday. Those are, traditionally, the moments we focus on, yet there is vastness of experiences throughout the week that we rarely talk about.
Among those moments we rarely talk about, how can they lead us to a deeper faith? What within those moments that don’t get the attention can help us to understand how Jesus went from a heralded king on Sunday to being treated as a traitor and blasphemer by Thursday? Those two questions, and others, are what we are going to use to center ourselves throughout Lent. We will examine these events that transpire early in Holy Week and contemplate upon how they advance the narrative of the conflict between Jesus and the religious elites. As well, we will see how they enable us to experience what Jesus was doing in the world and our lives today.
Our journey with Jesus through Holy Week begins with one of the most intense moments in the Gospels. It was a moment initiated by Jesus in response to something he saw when he entered the Temple. Yes, we are talking about the time Jesus flipped the tables and cleaned house in the Temple. It is one of the places that challenges our idea that Jesus was always mild-mannered. (That is what we desire of Jesus, by the way.) What took place and why should it matter to us today? Continue reading “One Week of Upsetting the Norms”
As Holy Week began, this week, we watched the burning of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris with a … Continue reading Reflections on the Cathedral of Notre Dame
On a bookshelf in my office is a new decorative piece that I received in Jerusalem. It is an olive … Continue reading The Embrace of Jesus
Last year, I had the responsibility of planning daily Holy Week services in Mercer County. It was the second year … Continue reading It is That Important
For many of you, this is the first time you will hear me say a few words about faith. Allow me to tell you a little bit about myself. I grew up in West Virginia. I spent the first 23 years of my life in the Mountain State, learning everything from the proper way of eating a hot dog – that would be with mustard, ketchup, coleslaw, chili, and onions – to how to look away from a West Virginia basketball game that doesn’t seem to go your way.
One of the most lasting impressions West Virginia and its culture gave me was a strong work ethic. You worked hard at what you did. There was a strong emphasis placed on proving yourself, showing your worth, and getting the most out of life. You were taught to earn everything you have in life.
Even though this is an ethic I learned in West Virginia, I do not think it is too far from the norm for many of us. We value hard work. We want to earn what we have and prove our worth to people. This is true whether it is in our jobs, our families, or in any other situation that comes before us. We want people to know us by what we do, by what we know, or by what we’ve accomplished. Continue reading “The Foolishness of the Cross”
On this Palm Sunday, we began our celebration by going back to the beginning of that Passover celebration so many years ago. Jesus and his followers triumphantly entered Jerusalem.
It was a celebratory scene of great jubilation and anticipation. The people expected Jesus to come and fulfil the promises of the Messiah and restore the Kingdom of Israel. So, they brought out the palm branches and laid them on the ground – an act that is something like laying out the red carpet today – and shouted “Hosanna! Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” All while Jesus humbly rode into town on the back of a donkey. Continue reading “Sunday Sermon: I Entrust My Spirit”
It doesn’t take a lot of time to recognize that our world is different than what many of us grew up with or have much familiarity with. Life is lived today in the fast lane, where it seems everything must happen in the instant. Communication is less about meeting with someone face-to-face, but done more through a text message or tweet. Also, we are long past the days where opening the doors on Sunday mornings meant large numbers of people would want to come or feel the need to worship.
Much has changed in the world with many of these changes taking place over the last 10 years. These changes provide challenges to our church and our mission to make disciples in the name of Jesus Christ. At the same time, I believe these changes has led to the most exciting time to be in the church or in ministry. We can no longer sit back and expect people to come to us. We must go to them.
One of the things that excites me about ministry today is the abundance of narratives that are prevalent today. We are recognizing that there are many voices in our world and these voices need to be heard. Where in previous times we might have only heard from a select or influential few, we now see the worth and importance of having a diverse set of narratives and what these narratives bring to our discussions. I think this allows us to see God in a deeper way and to reflect on the love of Jesus Christ in ways that are relevant, truthful, and meaningful to all. Continue reading “Jesus’ Trial, the Crowds, and Us”